The Grizzlies are agonisingly close to being a contender, what could push them over the edge?
For four successive seasons the Memphis Grizzlies have experienced post-season disappointment, unable to reach the NBA Finals. Their best effort yet came last season when they reached the Western Conference Finals only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
This season saw the Grizzlies reach 50 wins once again, putting together a late season push that saw them go 21-9 after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, they saw all this good work scuppered once again in a brutal seven game loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In a series that saw Games 2,3,4 and 5 go to overtime (an NBA first), the Grizzlies were eventually overcome by the Thunder’s athletic defence, restricted to shooting just 41.7% from the field.
While a first round play-off exit suggests that the organisation has a lot of work to do, this is not the case. The Thunder were an extremely difficult first round match-up and had things gone slightly differently the Grizzlies may well have been challenging the Clippers in the Western Conference Semi-finals, the team they knocked out of the play-offs only a year ago.
The Grizzlies have an extremely solid foundation in the form of the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph partnership, and Randolph’s expiring contract should be the first port of call for the Grizzlies front office.
Randolph has a player option worth almost $17 million for next season, though since he’s expressed an interest in finishing his career in Memphis, the Grizzlies should be focused on locking Randolph down for the long-term. Furthermore, if Randolph would be willing to take a slight pay-cut, this could give the Grizzlies some more flexibility in their free agent signings.
Memphis should then be looking to bring back some of their supporting cast from this season. Mike Miller is out of contract and may be willing to stay in Memphis on the cheap, an option the Grizzlies should jump at given the shooting Miller brings off the bench.
Nick Calathes and Kosta Koufos both have team options that the Grizzlies should be picking up after their contributions last season, while Ed Davis is due a qualifying offer that the Grizzlies would like to pick up, provided they can keep Davis around without sending them into the luxury tax.
A big x-factor for the Grizzlies could be their number 22 pick in the draft. Given the depth of this year’s draft, this pick could provide the Grizzlies with a solid option in the second unit such as Glenn Robinson III or TJ Warren.
Another option open to the Grizzlies would be to package the pick with some players in exchange for some established talent that could help push their roster over the edge into contender territory.
All in all the Grizzlies are in a great position for next season, with all sorts of money coming off their books in 2015 should this current roster fail to reach the promised land.